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A week in the life of Roger Matthews

Chief Dental Officer of Denplan and Heart Your Smile trustee.

Day 1:

Hampshire snow greets me as I open the curtains first thing in the dark. Being so close to the Equator, Hampshire snow melts on contact with the ground...except on those Occasions of National Emergency when there's a bit of sleet in the Home Counties and the world ends.

Mondays at Denplan always start with a Senior Team meeting, finding out what everyone has been doing and is proposing for the week ahead. This morning's was quicker than usual, as one of the boilers had a fault, and everyone was freezing after half an hour!

Back at the desk and e-mails and the post are waiting, so some time spent sorting those out. E-mails are rather like rabbits, turn your back and they multiply, so I have to ration my time on them. Then, as it's the month end it's 'column day' and an hour or so writing an article for a dental journal.

Suddenly, it's half an hour after lunch and just 20 minutes left to rush up the road for a sandwich (eaten whilst skimming through the BDJ) before coming back to make some phone calls – lunch time is usually the 'only' time to make calls out to dentists with a hope of getting through.

Afternoon and some more e-mails answering queries on a whole raft of legal and confidentiality matters (never miss a meeting, someone will vote you in as Data Protection Officer!). The usual range of compliance calls from dentists today seem to cover water distillers, restraint policies, pre-employment screening and limited company formation. We have a great knowledge bank and there's always someone, somewhere, with the answers.

Favourite part of my job has to be the total unpredictability of events. So, just when I'm preparing to do some research, there are two calls in succession from dentists I've known for some time, and before you know it, I glance out of the office door and just about everyone's gone home.

Back home I go for a relaxing walk in the dark with Jules, which is our way of winding down and exchanging stories about our day. Next therapy is co-cooking, something that we both enjoy on the evenings when I'm home. It's a cold clear night, and it's tempting to just nip out and have a quick look at the moons of Jupiter through the binoculars....

Day 2:

I'm going to cover two objectives in today's post: the picture above is the wonderful team (Denplan Professional Services) that I’m proud to work with, so I'm covering:

  • What makes (my) world a better place
  • Who could I not do my daily work without


- Roger

Day 3:

Wednesday feels like a more normal "abnormal" day after two fairly mundane - but still interesting ones!

The day began - after the usual scan of e-mails and post - with a meeting with some PCT representatives. Many Denplan dentists retain an NHS presence in their practices, and it's important for patient care we understand the objectives and constraints experienced in the public sector.

As usual with such meetings, I'm impressed by the commitment to patient care that's evident in a good number of managers who do 'get' the importance of oral healthcare and are willing to discuss the issues.

Straight into a meeting about websites and data protection and then a session with some dental colleagues thinking about the future of dentistry and its impact on our future strategy and planning. Big picture stuff - some great ideas.

After a very quick late lunch at the desk, it's time to complete some correspondence before the train to London.

By some rare chance coincidence, all three of my thirty-something sons are in the capital, and I enjoy a brief catch up with them. Snap some embarrassed pictures of their smiles for Friday's posting!

Then on to a late evening meeting with a young and enthusiastic dentist whom I've invited to share the stage with me at a Faculty open day tomorrow. It's the annual careers meetings for Foundation dentists, and I hope I can encourage them that it's an exciting time to be in their chosen profession.

What made me smile today? Well, naturally a father's pride in his offspring. But also I go to bed reflecting on my hotel's warning that no liability can be accepted for inappropriate use of a rubber bath mat. I'll go to sleep wondering what they had in mind....

Day 4:

Thursday is Faculty Open Day for over 200 Foundation Dentists – the future of our profession.

The Dean, Russ Ladwa, emphasised the 20 year history of FGDP and the importance of development. I thought of our nine habits, especially Connect, Innovate and Mentor.

Together with Dinesh, my youthful colleague (much more interesting to eager young minds than a fogey like me), we talked about Quality (Excel) and Amit Rai gave a brilliant talk about the importance of communication (Connect and Respect).

Richard Ibbetson gave a typically challenging introduction to decision making in diagnosis (Be Confident and Inspire) and challenged us all with some great cases (Innovate again!).

In the breaks between the seminar sessions, we had the chance to talk to a good number of delegates, all of whom were looking for an inspiring future for their professional careers. It was striking how many were wondering what they, as future Associates, could do to influence the practices they joined and that made me think how the new generation constantly seek to challenge and improve on the habits of their established colleagues – mentoring can and should go both ways in a vibrant profession.

I have to say that walking back over the Thames in the twilight of a sharp and frosty winter’s evening made me reflect how great London is going to look for the Olympic year, and how the smiles of winning athletes should give us all some inspiration this summer.

Day 5:

Friday was "back to work" after the day with Foundation Students at the Faculty.

That usually means that post and messages have piled up, and this was no exception. By 8.30 the "to do" list was reaching epic proportions but not much time to get started on them before meetings intervened.

There are the usual range of unusual contacts - a police force wanting information on a missing patient, OFT looking for some insight into an aspect of their forthcoming report, a weekly political update, refereeing decisions from a Journal about an article (no red card luckily!).

The day turns into a sort of spinning top, as I'm on phone duty too, with the amazing range of questions that dentists and their teams have. It concludes with a long phone call to North America about a preventive innovation that I've been quite excited about for some years. We did some clinical research on it in 2009 and it's finally licensed in the UK this year.

Finally it's the weekend and Jules and I join some friends for a visit to our local theatre in Winchester to see Jimmy Carr, who's doing some warm-up shows with material for a new tour. I'm probably the oldest in the place, by about forty years... Just the thing to prepare us fo a five-year old grand-daughter's birthday treat tomorrow, snow permitting!

All in all a fairly typical week! The future may not always be clear, but it's always fascinating...